Aust. Environment Minister Ltr re RET and Concerns About Wind Farms

 

June 23, 2015

Environment Minister Greg Hunt writes to Senators regarding the RET, and concerns about wind farms.

Senator Bob Day
Senator Jacquie Lambie
Senator David Leyonhjelm
Senator John Madigan

Dear Senators

The reinstatement of native forest wood waste as an eligible source of renewable energy under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015 is an important reform that will support additional renewable energy generation and secure future employment opportunities in regional Australia.

I can confirm that the use of native forests for the primary purpose of generating renewable electricity has never been and never will be eligible to create certificates under the scheme. Eligibility was, and will continue to be subject to several strict conditions, including that it must be harvested primarily for a purpose other than energy production. There is no evidence that its eligibility leads to unsustainable logging.

The Government understands the continuing concerns raised by sectors of the community on the impact of wind farms on local communities. The Government supports the continued deployment of solar and other emerging renewable technologies in Australia.

Subject to passage of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015 and reinstatement of native forest wood waste as eligible source of renewable energy, I will commit to the following measures at Attachments A and B to this letter.

Thank you for your ongoing support and engagement.

Yours sincerely,
Greg Hunt

 ADDRESSING COMMUNITY CONCERNS ABOUT WIND FARMS

  1. The Minister for the Environment will issue a statement that the Government will respond actively and in good faith to the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Wind.
  2. Subject to the outcomes of the Senate Select Committee, the Minister for the Environment will seek the agreement of relevant Ministers to progress reforms to improve the science relating to the sound of wind farms and the monitoring and transparency of information and help for communities.
  3. Improving science and monitoring
  • The Government will appoint in consultation with members of the Senate Select Committee and key industry and regulatory bodies, an independent scientific committee to provide research and advice to the Minister for the Environment on the impact on the environment and human health of sound (including low frequency and infrasound from wind turbines).

The independent scientific committee will be multidisciplinary, adequately resourced, include at least three members and be established by 1 September, 2015.

  • The Committee will publish research on:

The development of Australian methodologies and frameworks in sound measurement and standards for wind farms, including in the field of infrasound and low frequency sound – to improve planning and compliance decisions by state and territory authorities.

Innovation in cost-effective, continuous sound monitoring of wind farms.

Options for wind farm operators to maximise transparency such as by providing information on wind speed, operational statistics, operating hours and sound monitoring.

4. Empowering Communities

  • The Minister for the Environment will establish a National Wind Farm Commissioner to resolve complaints from concerned community residents about the operations of wind turbine The Commissioner will be able to refer complaints to relevant state authorities and help ensure that complaints are addressed.
  • The Minister for the Environment will seek agreement from states and territories to update and implement National Wind Farm Guidelines as recommended by the independent scientific committee, which each state and territory government should reflect in their relevant planning and environmental frameworks, and with the aim of finalising the Guidelines within 12 months. The Minister for the Environment will:

Promote with state and territory Environment Ministers at the July 2015 Meeting of Environment Ministers the guidelines; and

Seek to obtain the agreement of state and territory Environment Ministers through the National Environment Protection Council to develop sound measures under the National Environmental Protection Council Act 1994. 

  1. Transparency
  • The Commissioner will publish documents or links to documents, on its website to provide the community with information including, but not limited to:

The location of existing and proposed wind farms across Australia.

Planning and environmental approvals in place for each wind farms including links to state and territory planning approvals and authorities.

Renewable Energy Certificates received in respect of each wind farm.

Data on wind farm operators including operating times, wind speed, power output and sound monitoring.

…………………………..

ATTACHMENT B

MEASURES TO ENHANCE THE UPTAKE OF LARGE SCALE SOLAR, OTHER RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGI ES AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Read the Minister’s comments on Solar and other renewable energy technologies in the complete letter, downloadable here →